Friday, May 3, 2013

We Are The Safety Net

By Colleen Sinsky

Every day at JOIN, we encounter hundreds of examples of why the safety net is so hugely important to Portland residents who are too often overlooked.  Here’s a story of just one of those times when having flexible financial resources had an immediate, long-lasting impact on a hard working family in need.

Last night I went to the Portland Timbers game with a formerly homeless JOIN family on some generously donated tickets (thanks Timbers!)  It was awesome, and the happy seven-year- old and nine-year-old I got to sit with thought so too.  I should mention that these kids aren’t starving- they’d both had a hot dog before this conversation happened, and they are honestly some of the most well-taken-care of kids I’ve met in my life.  When the cotton candy vendor came around, the younger one knew better than to ask her dad for some and instead whispered to me, “Dad says we can’t buy stuff because we have to spend all our money on the electricity so we can turn the lights back on.”

It was hard to hear one of my favorite kiddos say that.   I leaned over to their dad and asked if it’s true that their electricity was off.  He quietly confirmed, yes- it’s been off for two days and the reason why his wife hadn’t joined us for the game as planned was because they hadn’t been able to charge her electric wheelchair.  

I asked him to come in to JOIN the next morning- his day off from work.  Today he and I sat down to go over their PGE bill and our funding options and I was able to deliver the good news that we were able to pay their entire past due amount!  One phone call later and the family’s electricity was turned back on remotely.

It’s hard to convey how happy I am when we’re able to provide support in a situation like that, but unfortunately there are many stories that don’t end as well.  Because of this family and so many others, I support the Portland Safety Net!